SEO for blog posts is constantly evolving with the changes of Google’s algorithm. From keyword research to the quality of your content, there are many signals involved when it comes to writing top-notch blogs for customers and the search engines.
If you’re struggling with SEO for blog posts, the good news is that there are plenty of actionable and effective tips to help your cause.
I’m going to walk you through, step-by-step, how you can strategically optimize a blog post. This information isn’t the generic content you’ll find on your typical SEO 101 post. I use real-life examples and show you exactly how you can create a good blog post for SEO beginning with the keyword and optimizing it clear through the end result.
Ready? Let’s do it.
Step 1: Brainstorm Blog Ideas by Clustering Content (Keywords Come Later)
Surprise! We’re not going to begin this process by researching for keywords. While keywords are important and we will discuss this in the next step, the blog topic itself really encompasses the big picture for SEO blog writing.
Why? Because one of the success signals of SEO is providing relevant and useful information to your customers.
Topic clustering for blog ideas is an insanely effective way to brainstorm great topics. According to HubSpot, topic clustering is the next evolution of SEO.
The video below gives an excellent overview of why topic clustering is a smart content strategy and how it can help give your SEO a boost when connected with pillar content.
How to Conquer Content Cluster Blog Ideas
As a blog writing service, I’ll use my own business to showcase the brainstorming process for blog topics with the cluster method.
The first step is to decide on a core theme for my content. For my business, it makes sense to use blogging since this is my primary service. In general, core topic terms are broad and they can be broken down into smaller topics that relate to the core.
Blogging is the core term of my keyword cluster diagram. The surrounding circles represent subtopics that I can use for potential blog content.
From here, you’ll want to find 6-8 subtopics that relate to the core term.
In my example, subtopics may include:
- Blogging benefits
- Blog writing tips
- Blog topic ideas
- Blog content strategy
- Blogging formats and presentation
- Blog promotion
From here, you’ll take the subtopic ideas and use them to answer questions that your customers are asking.
Luckily, there is a goldmine of information where you can find questions that are being asked by real people about your subtopics.
Step 1.5: Formulate a Subtopic Question with Quora
Quora can help you dig up some great questions to pose for your next blog post.
First, type in one of your subtopic ideas into the Quora search. We’ll use blogging benefits for this example.
Find a question that is close to what you’d like to write a blog post about. Since I don’t want to write a blog about guest blogging, hashtags, or PR, I’ll click on “what are the benefits of having a blog?”
From there, I’ll look at the related questions on the right-hand side.
Again, I’ll have to weed out some of the topics that aren’t relevant to my core blog writing services. I don’t provide blog writing services for personal websites, so I need to stick to questions that I can answer for B2B or B2C companies.
Some options for me are:
- What are the benefits of blogging?
- What are the benefits or best reasons for blogging?
- What is blogging?
- What are the benefits of a startup having a blog?
There is no right or wrong answer on a topic to choose from the related list on Quora. This is just a strategy you can use if you get stuck and you’re not sure how to formulate a question out of a core topic that you want to use. The answer all comes down to what fits into your content strategy and what questions that your customers are asking.
I’ll pick the “What are the benefits of blogging?”
However, I am not going to take this exact headline and run with it.
The next step is to find keywords in SEMRush that I can use in the blog post to rank on Google.
Step 2: Optimize Your Headline for SEO
Blog headlines are incredibly important. The success of your blog post can literally depend on how well you craft your title, and this applies to both search engines and your customers.
Specifically for SEO, we need to find a keyword that we can use that is on the lower side of competitive. If you pick a term that’s overly competitive, it’s going to be tough—if not impossible—to get any return on investment from that keyword.
Referencing back to my subtopic of “blogging benefits”, I’ll type this into SEMRush and see what comes up.
I found the keyword “benefits of blogging” through the phrase match keywords. Its competition is only .02, which is fantastic. The search volume is 320/month, and that’s adequate enough to bring in some traffic and possible leads.
So, I have a question/topic in mind and I have a keyword. What now?
Step 3: Optimize Your Blog Headline for Humans
When it comes to crafting the perfect headline for your next blog, you know two things up until this point.
- You know that real people are asking questions about the benefits of blogging on Quora.
- You have real data to support that you can rank for the keyword on Google.
This is when it’s time to blend both blog writing and SEO, where you take your question that you found from Quora and weave in the SEMRush keyword, all while making the title enticing and clickable.
Human-Friendly Headline Tips:
According to QuickSprout, there are four U’s to writing an effective headline: Unique, Ultra-specific, Useful, and sense of Urgency.
Beyond those criteria, these are additional headline writing tips that to catch the attention of your audience:
- Form a list post. Lists posts are organized and skimmable. According to HubSpot, 43% of blog readers want you to create skimmable content.
- Include a number in your blog headline. According to WordStream, Headlines with numbers are 36% more popular.
- Consider a negative slant to your headline. Outbrain’s research indicates that negative-sounding headlines have more engagement than positive headlines.
- Use power words. Power words are some of the most persuasive words in the English language. They help establish an emotional connection between the customer and your content.
- Ask a question in your headline. Not only is this good for mobile search, but it can serve as a teaser for your post.
- Don’t forget about FOMO. The fear of missing out is a popular acronym as of late, and you can leverage it to draw readers to your content. In other words, they’ll feel like they’re missing out on something if they don’t read your content—and a lot of times, they will miss out!
Use Headline Tools to Your Advantage
There are many tools available to help evaluate the power of your headline. I’ve tried quite a few, and the two best headline tools I’ve found are CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer requires an email to gain access, but it’s well worth the trade-off. It analyzes aspects of your headline such as:
- Types of words: common, uncommon, emotional, and power (think back to the power words chart I provided).
- Length of the blog title (how many words).
- Character count (CoSchedule says that blog titles with 55 characters get the most click-throughs).
- Google search preview.
- Email preview for sending email blasts.
With the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer evaluates how the headline fits into three categories: emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. It’s scored on the amount of EMV (emotional marketing value) words that are in the title. The best score starts around 25%.
Now that you have these headline writing tips to consider, you can mold your keyword into a topic that resonates with your audience.
Step 4: Implementing Critical Quality Markers that Impact Ratings
Before we dive into the technical aspect of optimizing the blog post, there are some important elements of SEO writing that don’t involve analyzers or tools. This will show you some tips on creating quality blog content that wins with both Google and your customers.
Sticking to Google’s Quality Guidelines
Like it or not, Google makes the final decision on how your blog content ranks in the search engines. When it comes to quality standards, let’s do a quick overview of Google’s quality guidelines and how they impact your blogging and SEO efforts.
The guidelines emphasize that the content must serve a purpose. Some example purposes Google’s guidelines include:
- To share information about a topic.
- To entertain.
- To express an opinion or point of view.
- To allow users to post questions.
- To share social information.
Your content doesn’t need to fit under every category. The point is that one of the first steps to optimizing is ensuring that the content serves a purpose for your customers.
Strategically Planning the Length of Your Blog Post
Quality content doesn’t automatically equal a blog post that’s 3,000+ words. However, it’s difficult to produce a quality piece when you don’t have a lot of words to work with.
It’s also not helpful to just pick a word count number on a whim and shoot for the stars.
So, what’s the right approach?
These questions can help you determine the length of your next blog post.
- Question 1: Who is my audience? Are they likely to want to digest a blog post that is [insert your targeted word count number]? If you don’t know the answer to this, you can review your time spent on page statistics on Google Analytics for previous blog posts. If you don’t have previous blog posts to compare, then you can begin with testing different word counts—1,000, 1,500, 2,000, etc. and see how your audience responds.
- Question 2: How long is the content that is ranking #1 for my desired keyword? You can use this as a base number. Only exceed this word count if you can add more value.
- Question 3: Does my chosen keyword require a lot of in-depth information? You want to make sure you provide as much information in your blog post as possible.
- Question 4: Can I create thorough content on this topic while adding value? Even if you know the content requires a lot of in-depth information, it’s not worth writing a book on the subject if the content is nothing but fluff.
- Question 5: Do I have enough credible sources or original data to sustain a quality blog post? Fluff posts are no good, but fluff posts without any type of research or credible sources to provide are even worse. You’ll need these sources if you plan to dive deep into a topic, which is one way that you can position yourself as a trusted source in your industry.
Mixing up Your Media for Better User Experience
Although a beautifully written blog post is the end goal, the truth is that you need more than text on a screen. Today, user experience affects SEO, and it certainly makes a huge impact on your customers.
Remember that people like to consume different types of content online.
The answer is to mix different types of media into your blog content to further improve user experience.
Consider the following types of media to create a better user experience with your customers:
- Explainer videos or tutorial videos.
- Short-form videos, such as quick tips that add additional insight to your blog post. These are great for repurposing on social media.
- GIFS, which can add a comical edge to your blog content.
- Memes, which can have the same effect as GIFs.
- Downloadable checklists.
If you decide to design your own media, be sure to keep branding in mind. Stick to a color palette that matches your logo if possible. You’ll also want to keep the text the same for consistency.
For those who are interested in trying out graphic design, I found this blog from Content Marketing Institute useful: 3 Graphic Design Tips for Non-Designers.
Make Your Content Comprehensive: Discovering Additional Questions
While targeting a single topic might seem like a smart idea, the best course of action is to make your content as comprehensive as possible.
Even though my chosen example topic is The 10 Hidden Benefits of Blogging, the idea is to identify and answer all related search terms to my topic.
There are several ways that you can discover additional questions for this purpose.
- Option 1: You can dig further into SEMRush and do a search for related phrases to your core topic.
- Option 2: You can use SEMRush’s new Keyword Magic Tool to apply question identifier terms (what, how, who, etc.) to your keyword that can specifically help populate questions. You may have to rephrase the keyword or add in other related keywords that can result in questions. The idea is not to find exact keywords for SEO, but to give you some ideas for additional questions to ask.
- Option 3: You can go back to Quora and find questions that you can pull into your content that makes sense with your main topic.
- Option 4: You can survey your audience, which Moz recommends for best results.
- Option 5: Put yourself inside the mind of your customer and imagine what kind of questions they might be asking as they read your blog. This is one of the methods I personally use for every piece, and I try to expand on any possible question as I work my way through the blog writing process.
Step 5: The Technical Nitty Gritty of SEO for Blog Posts
So far we’ve covered the following in this blog post: brainstorming blog topics by clustering, fielding questions with Quora, optimizing the blog headline for both SEO and human readers, and how you can make sure that your blog is top-notch in terms of quality.
But we’re not done yet.
Now, it’s time to do some technical SEO. In other words, we’ll talk about keyword placement and a little about internal linking.
Where to Place Your Keywords
You already know that the days of keyword stuffing are over. You’ll need to strategically place your keywords in various parts of your content.
- Title tag: This is your headline.
- URL: Place the keyword inside of the URL structure. Stop words can be eliminated.
- Meta description: While the meta description length was increased to 300+ words within the last year, Danny Sullivan from Google verified that snippets are created dynamically and Google will use what it finds useful out of the description. What’s more is that a study by Yoast indicated that Google doesn’t always even use your meta description and it may pull the first sentence or two from your blog post. Shoot for writing a meta description around 130-160 characters and use your keyword within.
Here is how I would optimize my post: The 10 Hidden Benefits of Blogging
Other areas to include your keywords:
- In the first paragraph of your blog post. If you can fit it into the first sentence, even better.
- Alt tags for images.
- Inside of links, especially when you’re linking to other pages on your own website.
- H1, H2, and H3 header tags.
This is filler text (Latin), but you can see how I used the keyword in the first sentence of my blog, in an internal link, an H2 tag, and the alt tag for the image.
Remember that it’s also a good idea to sprinkle in secondary keywords throughout the post. Hammering the same keyword over and over will send your content straight to the abyss of Google search. Today, it’s all about semantic search—using related keywords throughout your blog that connect to the core topic.
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